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A Symphony in the Brain: The Evolution of the New Brain Wave Biofeedback Hardcover – May, 2000

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Can you fix your own neurologic problems without resorting to drugs? Science writer Jim Robbins suggests that some such conditions--like epilepsy, autism, and depression--could yield to a recently developed technique called neurofeedback. His book A Symphony in the Brain describes the process, its evolution from the 1970s fad of biofeedback, its practitioners, and some of its success stories. Using computers to quickly provide information on real-time EEG, practitioners train patients to control global or local brain states--or so the theory goes. Unfortunately for its proponents, there are still no rigorous research data showing conclusive results. Robbins makes a good case that the lack of research is due more to scientific turf battles and a drug-dependent medical establishment than to any fault of neurofeedback. Some of the case studies he explores, of children and adults brought out of comas or trained to reduce their epileptic seizure frequency, suggest that we ought to look more deeply and rigorously into the technique. Whether it works can only be determined by controlled studies, which may be forthcoming. In the meantime, Robbins provides contact lists and additional research information for interested readers, as well as the inspiration to pursue a potentially life-saving treatment. --Rob Lightner

From Publishers Weekly

If you thought biofeedback was a passing fad, freelance journalist Robbins will enlighten you. Far from a 1970s fringe treatment, neurofeedback (as it has been renamed) is being used to treat everything from autism and fetal alcohol syndrome to attention deficit disorder, manic-depression, stroke and menopausal symptoms. Despite numerous accounts of dramatic improvements of patients afflicted with a wide variety of conditions, the pharmaceutically oriented medical community is only now beginning to acknowledge its effectiveness. The treatment has been marginalized all these years because, like acupuncture, researchers don't understand exactly how it works. Robbins details the fascinating medical history of the therapy, tracing it back to French physician Paul Broca's discovery of the region in the brain where speech originates. At the heart of this riveting story are the people whose lives have been transformed by neurofeedback, from the doctors and psychologists who employ it to the patients who have undergone treatment. Robbins introduces Dr. Barry Sterman, whose 40 years of research supports the use of neurofeedback to treat epilepsy; Jesse DeBoer, who was born with severe brain damage and can now, at 19, function on the level of a learning-disabled person; and school principal Linda Vergara, who teaches grade school students to train their brains instead of using Ritalin to treat attention deficit disorders. Here, too, are the conflicts that have both enlivened neurofeedback and limited its use, much of which Robbins attributes to a lack of funding as he emphatically defends this promising treatment. (May)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 260 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Pr; 1 edition (May 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0871138077
  • ISBN-13: 978-0871138071
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #369,280 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jim Robbins, a free-lance writer for more than thirty years, lives with his family in Helena, Montana. He has been a frequent contributor to the New York Times since 1980, and has written for numerous magazines from Conde Nast Traveler to Smithsonian. He has carried out assignments, in Europe, Mongolia, Peru, Chile, Mexico and across North America, especially the Rocky Mountain West. He is the author of four books of non-fiction, and is at work on a fifth. His writing interests fall into two main camps: the environment and the human central nervous system. He considers the fact that he has been able to freely indulge his curiosity and get paid for it, one of his greatest accomplishments.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

90 of 91 people found the following review helpful By Mitchell Small on January 24, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
While this is not a clinical manual for the use of Neurofeedback, Jim Robbins does expect his readers to be intelligent. This in itself is quite a departure from a lot of other books on the topic. The author does provide enough information for a person being exposed to the concepts of Neurofeedback for the first time to follow the technical aspects of the work. Robbins traces the scientific roots of Neurofeedback (NF), from Pavlov to today, while showing that as a science, it has matured beyond the shortcut to Nirvana it was touted as in the early years of its use. Through biographies of the modern founders of Neurofeedback and actual case histories of successful uses of NF in treating a variety of disorders, Robbins tries to show the serious side of Neurofeedback.
The book also touched me personally. I and another family member have ADD / ADHD and are using NF to control our symptoms. I started reading the book looking for more information on the actual process. I found this book is the start of the road in learning about Neurofeedback and would consider it essential reading for anyone interested in how NF may be used. I was left with the feeling of promise that NF holds for the future of medicine.
Robins also delves into some of the more controversial aspects of NF, including the use of NF to enhance our everyday lives and open our minds. This is the aspect that gave NF a bad reputation early on and Robbins mentions it, but does not heavily promote it. He presents it in the spirit that NF may have a place beyond purely clinical uses.
Overall, the book is well balanced and Robbins does a credible job of promoting the useful aspects of Neurofeedback while maintaining the proper distance from the fringe groups that gave NF such a bad reputation that conventional medicine still does not give the field the respect it deserves.
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111 of 117 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 19, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I became interested in this book from the perspective of a long-term meditator. I have read many many studies of how meditation improves brain wave patterns, and provides many psychological and physiological benefits. So I was curious about what neurofeedback could do. This book provided an excellent, complete review of the subject. I highly recommend that you study it.
Neurofeedback is based on a variety of methods, but they all include giving a person positive and negative reinforcement about their brain wave patterns at different frequencies. Based on clinical experiences, some brain wave patterns provide more calmness, while others provide more clarity, while others encourage creativity. The field has built up based on trial and error beginning with insights from animal research, often done with cats. Often, this treatment is combined with psychological counseling and behavioral reinforcements of other types. Sometimes dietary imbalances that affect brain chemistry are addressed, as well. How neurofeedback treatment is administered depends on the practitioner. There is no government licensing or certification in the field. Many types of equipment are used. Some even allow you to do the treatment on your own at home, with an investment as low as $950. The experience and skill of the practitioner seem to add value though.
This field should be distinguished from biofeedback. That process (which is also unlicensed and unregulated for practitioners) focuses on giving patients feedback on things like how warm their hands are, primarily as a mechanism to help people reduce stress. Cold hands can be one sign of stress. By learning to induce more relaxed states, many patients improve from various psychological ailments that involve excess stress.
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68 of 70 people found the following review helpful By Medical School Professor on April 26, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is an exciting new book that describes the startling technology of brain wave training. Called EEG biofeedback, or neurofeedback, the book describes the history of how this technology developed. It then details the many areas of application, such as ADD/ADHD, learning disabilities, epilepsy, head injuries, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia, addictions, sleep disorders, stroke rehabilitation, and even assisting patients to come out of coma! It is a very readable book, filled with interesting case examples. It is hard to read this book without feeling the excitement that this fascinating technology creates for changing brain dysfunctions and dramatically changing people's lives. It includes a list of web sites for learning more, obtaining detailed references to the scientific literature, and identifying qualified referral sources. I highly recommend this book
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48 of 48 people found the following review helpful By hank7503 on April 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Neurofeedback has been available as an alternative treatment for ADHD and ADD for many years. However clinicians and institutions practicing tradional medical treatments for ADHD have not embraced or in most cases not bothered to learn about Neurofeedback. As a result our children [and, in my case, our patients] have suffered from a lack of information and alternatives to Ritalin, Dexedrine, etc. A Symphony in The Brain goes a long way to filling in the gap. It covers the history of neurofeedback and reviews in great depth the work of the key figures in the deveelopment of Neurofeedback.The book gives a balanced picture, looking at the ideas of neurofeedback's proponents and also its detractors. It is clearly written. Anyone interested in learning more about this very powerful treatment modality can get a good start with "A Symphony in the Brain."
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